Saturday, December 15, 2012

Looking for a Baby in a Barn

On the countryside overlooking the small village of Bethlehem, a herd of sheep settles into the grass for a good night’s rest. Their shepherds keeping watch lean against their staffs, nodding in and out of sleep.

It is an ordinary night, but these everyday men are about to become the most famous search party in all of history. The story of this night will be told and retold for thousands of years.

Suddenly, flashes of bright light break through the darkness. The men rub their eyes. Is this a dream? There, in the midst of them, stands an angel. Glory blazes all around. A thousand different colors swirl like liquid light flowing from the sky above to the ground beneath their feet.

Terrified, these burly men hit the dirt. Some of them scream. Others run and hide.

“Don’t be afraid,” says the angel. His voice sounds like a pleasant melody. He delivers a message: “The Savior of the whole world, the one foretold for centuries, has been born on this night in the town below. You will find him, a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a barn’s feeding trough.”

A choir of angels appears in the night’s sky. Great beautiful heavenly beings, they sing about God’s glory and His good will toward mankind. It is music so lovely – the likes of Bach and Beethoven will search for only a few measures of it.

“Peace on earth!” they sing as their great finale.

And then they are gone. The music stops. There is again only the dark night.

The shepherds are seeing spots.

Flabbergasted, they turn to one another. “How are we to find this baby in a barn?” they wonder. “At this hour of the night, who will help us? Who will stay with the sheep?” Somehow they figure out a plan, and then hurry down the hill toward the town.

They start knocking on doors.

“Ahem, sorry to wake you. Is there a baby in your barn? Uh…you see these angels told us…”

“No, no babies here,” says the tired man at the door. “Now kindly let us go back to sleep.”

On to the next house, again they knock. “Do you have a baby in the barn here?” they ask. The angry, half-asleep innkeeper sends them away.

Still they knock, one house to the next.

A few times, there is no answer at the door.

Twice they think they have found the baby. “Ah, yes, we’ve had a baby born here tonight,” says the guesthouse manager. They rejoice! …only to find it a false hope. The baby is in a cradle in a guest room, not a manger in a barn as the angel said.

Still they keep going. Finally, someone has heard the cries of a woman giving birth in one of the stables.

Joseph meets them at the door. Mary, exhausted from travel and childbirth, is resting in the straw next to her newborn baby boy. He is wrapped in a blanket, lying in the manger. It is just as the angels said it would be. This baby must be the Son of God, the Hope of the World, the long-awaited Good King of All.

They fall down on their knees. They jump for joy. They stand in awe. They tell Joseph and Mary of the angels, the message, the glory and the music. Then they go throughout the town, spreading the word of their extraordinary experience.

This is an age-old tale, one I have heard many times in Christmas Pageants and TV repeats of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Only recently have I found this secret hidden in the story.

These shepherds were given a message, a clue to an ancient mystery: “You will find the baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a feeding trough in a barn.” But they didn’t know which barn, or which baby. They had to go and look. There was a crazy late-night search between the going and the finding that we read about in Luke 2.

What if one night I went running through all the barns in my hometown, looking for a baby in one of the feed troughs? Surely people would think me crazy. Did these men ever think themselves silly, or consider giving up? Did they get tired of knocking on doors?

This holiday season, if we feel that God is again working His mysterious ways, if we are wondering where He is, if we are looking for Him – knocking on doors – let us remember that we are in good company. These shepherds – the very first ones to hear the news about Jesus’ birth – they were seekers, too.

The story of these shepherds is the story of us all.

God sends us a beautiful message, telling us to go out and search; and if we don’t give up looking, He promises that we will find what we are looking for. Sure, we may knock on a few doors that give no answer. We may try and come up empty. But we will find Jesus. It’s a promise. Perhaps he will once again turn up in a place we least expect, in a barn among the cattle and donkeys, there in the mess, among us.

Published in the Powhatan Today, December 12, 2012 ~ Powhatan, Virginia

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Album: A Thousand Different Colors!

Hello, everyone! Here's the new album, A Thousand Different Colors. Listen to the songs, buy downloads & real CD's, and share wherever your heart desires here...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Story: 1,000 Different Colors

After 4 years in Switzerland, I have returned with my family to the USA.  I’m currently in Nashville, working my new record, 1,000 Different Colors.  Here’s the back-story…

We were still new to Switzerland when we walked into “The Connecting Zone” at International Christian Church (ICF) in downtown Zurich.  It was a hot and crowded room, full of people from all over the world.  Colorful flags from the nations hung across the ceiling and around the walls.  I looked to find the Stars and Stripes, a comforting symbol of home in this foreign environment.  Here, I was the foreigner.  Our Swiss hosts served a dark meat and vegetable sauce over white rice while Europeans, Africans, South Americans, North Americans, Australians and Asians crammed together, eating and speaking languages I had never heard before.

I had no place in my brain for this.  Living in a new country, walking into a room filled with scores of new languages, new cultures?  To say, “it was a new experience” would be the understatement of the year.

Growing up on my granddaddy’s farm in Powhatan, Virginia, before they put in the first stoplight in our small town, I learned a lovely value of family roots, and a strong sense of community.  I brought all this with me when I moved at 17 years old to Nashville, Music City, USA.  I traveled a little bit in Europe; a couple of missions trips opened my eyes to living conditions in Mexico and Central America.  Still, I admired the way my husband, Doug, related with ease to people from all over the world.  His close friends were from India and Australia.  His best man in our wedding was a missionary in Lithuania.  He made frequent research trips to Panama and spoke decent Spanish.  I could barely remember a few phrases of high school French.  I longed for an international life experience.

I got one.

Over the next few months, we visited ICF, a brave new kind of church plowing the hard ground of Central Europe.  Hundreds of teens and young families poured into a warehouse every Sunday, where the music was loud, the screens were big, and the pastor had spiked hair and looked just like Keifer Southerland.  I had grown up in church, and sung in quite a few of them, but I had never seen anything like this.  So many things differently done, and yet the passion and love for Jesus was evident in the hearts of the people. 

After the services, back in The Connecting Zone, I became friends with Abraham from Ghana, Eloise from Peru, Eli from South Africa, Edward from New Zealand, and many others, and learned about their different cultures.  It was as if I had only seen blue my whole life; now I was beginning to understand the reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and purples of the world.

One Tuesday evening as we all gathered for worship, our friend, Matt Bossard from Switzerland, shared this story:  He had been on holidays to the south of France, where he enjoyed watching the sunset over the Mediterranean every evening.  “Everyone says the sea is blue,” he said. “…but it’s not.  It sparkles with 1,000 different colors.”

This was a revelation.

My whole life, I was trying to paint the world with one color: The sea is blue.  But it’s not just blue…the sea is 1,000 different colors.

In Switzerland, I learned this lesson: We try to make things simple.  We say, “Trees are green. The sky is blue.” But the falling autumn leaves, the sunset sky…they are 1,000 different colors.  We do this with people sometimes, too.  We say, “She is like this.  He is like that.”  But we are, each one of us, 1,000 different colors.  We say, “God is like this.”  But, the ways He leads us, the ways He reveals Himself to us, the ways He shows Himself in nature all around us…God is 1,000 different colors.

And so I have a new song, and a new album, 1,000 Different Colors.  The songs are about hope and healing, seeing the world and God in new ways.

“The sky is not blue…the sky is like You:
1,000 different colors, moving all together
More beautiful, more beautiful than words.”

Even more special is the way people from all over the world are coming together to make this music happen.  We are 1,000 Different Colors.  If you’d like to learn more and be a part of the making of this album, visit:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Support My New Album: 1,000 Different Colors!

My new album is called 1,000 Different Colors! After 4 years in Switzerland, now we're coming home to the USA w/ songs about hope & seeing God in new ways. We could really use your help and support to make this album happen. Here's how you can be a part of it all:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

100 Things I Learned in Switzerland: Sights and Sounds

2) The sights and sounds of Europe ~ living, touring, hiking and eating through a good slice of it.
3) Europe, like the USA, is a very big, diverse place.

After graduating college, during those years when we worked any job while trying to find our way in the world, a few girlfriends of mine decided to date their passports.  Every time things didn't work out with a man of interest, they took off for Edinburgh, Paris, Cinque Terre, and put another stamp in their little books. 

They talked of Euro rail passes and hostels, and came home with stories of sleeping on trains and the guys who hit on them during siesta in Rome.

Meanwhile, I was nannying during the week and touring the US interstates from church service to youth coffeehouse on the weekends.  It was exciting, but let's just say doing a show in Auburn, Indiana didn't have the same mystique as playing for tips on the streets of Prague.

I had the dream of European travel, but circumstances and the contents of my bank account never added up to a plane ticket.  At 26, when Doug proposed, it was my only regret…I never got to backpack through Europe.  A year after the wedding bells, pregnant with our little surprise blessing, I thought it was all over.  Life of adventure, done.  But...

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
this God has prepared for those who love him.
~ Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 2:9

Only a few months later, Doug accepted a position at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.  The little guy was four and a half months old when we moved across the ocean.

"You're taking a baby to live in a foreign country?" so many people probed, surprised that we would even consider this adventure, let alone do it.

For me, the answer was simple.  I wanted to see Europe.  This was my chance.  I wanted to kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower and hike the Cinque Terre.  I wanted to sit in a street-side cafe, eat croissants and sip espresso.   I wanted to people-watch, and listen to them laugh in foreign languages.  I wanted to study the beautiful architecture of any random street  with no need to rush for a tour bus, no hurry for a travel schedule.

Before the landing gear hit the tarmac, Doug and I made an agreement: we would see one new place every month.  We didn't want to settle down and forget the beautiful places around us. 

Now four years later, we've surpassed our goal.  Sometimes we planned a major trip, other times we just took an afternoon to see a little town outside the city.  All counted, we've seen 68 cities and towns, and we've still got a month to go...a hiking trip near St. Moritz, Switzerland. 

We haven't so much "backpacked" through Europe, as much as we've "stroller-ed" through it.  Our Baby Jogger City Classic, loaded up with kid(s), diaper bag, and travel gear, has strolled from the trails of the Black Forests all the way to the halls of the Vatican Museum. 

Though only 4 years old, Abe has enough stamps in his passport to make any of my old girlfriends jealous.  Ella Grace is just 15 months, and she could swap some stories, too.

So, dream come true, right?  These places, the sights and sounds of these 68 cities and towns are the backdrop for 100 Things Learned.

*    *   *

Here's where I must enter a small caveat for #3.

Europe, like the USA, is a big place.  Most things/people/places look simple from far away.  You hear folks on both sides of the Atlantic say, "Oh, in America, it's like this....and in Europe, it's like that."  But all this become more complicated as one gets closer.  

As an example…and most people don't know this…Doug is an expert in his field concerning the immune defenses of amphibians.  He is interviewed and quoted, his research sited.  He recently published a chapter in a textbook on the subject.  Still, he'll be the first to tell you there is so much he doesn't know about how the little critters fight disease.  Days and weeks and years of study turn up some answers and a lot more mystery. 

It's the same with travel, the same with Europe.  London, Prague, Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, Zurich...these are all very different places, with their own languages, their own cultures...not to mention all towns and countrysides in between.     

Same goes for the USA.  I ask my American readers, would my Swiss friend have a complete understanding of America by visiting only 68 places?  She might have a good overview if she saw NYC, Miami, LA, and Dallas, but what about Boston, Nashville, Austin, and Seattle, and all the places in between?  Sure, she saw Detroit, but Holland, Michigan is way different from Detroit.  And what about Mackinac Island?  Sure, she saw Washington, DC and the Shenandoah National Park, but did she walk the rest of the Appalachian Trail, or see the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee? 

Get my point?  Anyone could spend years traveling these vast areas, even write 100 things she learned, and still not have a complete understanding.  There's always more to see, always more shades of a place and it's people to discover.    

In case you're wondering…the 68 cities and towns include:
The 26 Cantons of Switzerland
Paris & the Alsace region of France
London, England
Prague & Bohemia, Czech Republic
The Highlights of Italy as far south as Naples
Western Austria
Southern Germany
Abe & I also traveled to Oban & Edinburgh, Scotland.
Doug also did some research outside of Madrid, Spain.

Still looking forward to/hoping for:
Amsterdam and The Netherlands
The rest of France
Spain and Portugal
Vienna, Austria
More of Eastern Europe

Friday, April 20, 2012

100 Things I Learned in Switzerland

1) What to do when the pastor drops the F-bomb.

I was fresh off the plane from the USA, eager to get settled in this beautiful country,  when I was invited to sing in all the services at ICF, a Swiss church of 2,000 mostly young people and families in Zurich.  On the day, I was warmly welcomed by an excited staff, obviously full of passion to reach the city, and the rest of the world for Jesus. 

I don't quite remember how it happened…some things are still a blur…but I was talking with Pastor Leo between services when he began telling me a story from his time in Australia.

Toward the end of his weeks-long trip, Leo and another pastor were on the golf course when Leo said, "Man, I can't wait to get home and fuck my wife."  The other pastor was flabbergasted.  "You can't use that word!" he said.  "Why not?" Leo answered.  "No!  You can't use that word," he insisted.  "Are you sure?" Leo replied.  "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck…!  See?" 

The other pastor didn't know what to do, and neither did I.  I had never heard the F-bomb dropped 20 times in a row, much less by a pastor. 

My jaw was on the ground.  I wanted to throw up.

But there was something special about Pastor Leo that kept me from judging him.  There was an authenticity about him, and the power of God when he spoke, and 2,000 people crowding into a warehouse to be a part of this church that he was leading;   loads of fruit growing right here in the hard spiritual ground of Europe.  It's hard to point the finger at that. 

It was many moons later that I realized, Swiss people view our cuss words like we view theirs…as funny words.  Saying "scheisse" can be fun even for Evangelicals, and it's the same the other way around. 

Also, when speaking in a foreign language, one often doesn't fully understand the weight of certain words.  For example, I might say "I am angry" in German, which would come across too strong when I only mean I am a bit frustrated or perturbed.  

Furthermore, there is no church culture here.  Only Jesus culture.  Meaning, there is no Christian sub-culture with a list of do's and don'ts'…do act like this, don't say that.  There is only the directive to follow Jesus and be authentic.

Even now, I am moved by Pastor Leo's willingness to preach and live his life without any pretense.

This was one of my first experiences here of looking beyond a person's actions to see their heart, understanding cultural differences enough to realize…it's the heart and God's presence that counts most.

We ended up attending ICF for the rest of our time in Switzerland.  We were small group leaders, and helped for a while with the English/Spanish church which was just beginning, and I got my start leading my first Creative Community. 

When I worked in the church office, my stomach still sunk into my shoes whenever I heard someone shout a cuss word. 

Now I just giggle. 

I'm sitting with the worship team at lunch and one of them says "Shit!" and, hey…I'm still an American.  I was raised a goody-goody, so smoking and cuss words and a glass of wine may always for me have a certain air of excitement. 

So I giggle, and they giggle at me, and we understand one another.  And I'm grateful to these people for the first chips at breaking me out of my shell. 

A new project: 100 Things I Learned in Switzerland

In just a few days, the Woodhams family will celebrate 4 years of living in Switzerland.  It's our "Swiss-iversary". 

Our small flat is about to be filled with boxes and bags for our move back to the States; my laptop is already a hub for to-do lists and travel arrangements. 

Outside it is another glorious Swiss spring – the magnolias are in bloom and the fields are yellow and, when the sun breaks through the clouds, the whole country will be one beautiful sea of green. 

I keep thinking of all we've experienced here – all I've learned here. 

It's been an exciting, challenging, rewarding ride.  Sometimes the learning curve was so steep, I could've had a nosebleed, but we kept going.  I've decided to document my education in a little project…

100 Things I Learned in Switzerland.

This is my way of remembering and honoring the things I learned in this beautiful, efficient, "land-locked island" country. 

Some items will hopefully be funny, some a bit more serious, some learned once and for all, others still works in progress.  Some may require explanation, for those on one side of the Atlantic or the other.  Remember, it's just one gal's perspective, and I will do my best.